TUSC brings activists together to demand Housing For All!

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition held an important and successful public meeting on the housing crisis on 3 December. The meeting was joined by four residents of Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers, Sandra Sharpe who has been fighting the bedroom tax, and several young people concerned about the situation in private renting. Nancy Taaffe, prospective TUSC candidate for Walthamstow in next May’s general election, introduced the meeting and highlighted the different campaigns that have erupted in the last year. For example, the Focus E15 Mums campaign was launched by single mothers in Newham who faced eviction from their homeless hostel because of cuts by the Labour council. The New Era campaign is fighting extortionate rent rises and possible eviction. Nancy pointed out the important role of residents refusing to move when faced with eviction. She also called for councils to use their compulsory purchase powers to forcibly take over housing when huge rent rises are threatened and transform the units into social housing.

Locally, we are at the start of a campaign to defend Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers in Leytonstone. The council is trying to force through renovations of the blocks by a private developer. Nancy called for the £10 million (that the council has said is available) to be spent on the renovations – not held hostage to force residents to agree to the council’s preferred plan (including privatisation, sell-offs and building between the blocks). Nancy said that those residents who want to move should be able to do so with the guarantee of secure tenancies and social rents elsewhere. But those who don’t want to move should refuse to go. We have to argue that social housing is a public good – when people move on to somewhere else, the housing should go to others from the community who are in housing need. The consequence of these attacks on social housing, Nancy said, is that younger people are a captive market in the private renting sector. They face completely uncontrolled rents and crippling insecurity. TUSC calls for rent control, democratic rent councils to decide fair rents, an end to the bedroom tax and a mass programme of building and renovating council homes.

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, who chaired the meeting, appealed to people to collect signatures on the TUSC petition calling for rent control in the borough. She said that those social housing residents on the tenants committees in the borough could potentially get thousands of signatures between them in support of private renters, who in turn should get involved in the campaigns to defend social housing. In this way, this TUSC meeting was important for bringing people with different individual housing concerns together to agree on common demands and strategy. What was universally agreed is that the Labour Party is not willing to take the types of action necessary to guarantee everyone a decent, affordable home. The movement developing against the housing crisis needs a political voice, which is why building TUSC, including through May’s general election campaign, is a vital part of the struggle.

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

Why I’m standing: Tim Roedel, Grove Green

Hello, my name is Tim Roedel and I’m standing for TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in Grove Green ward in the forthcoming council elections on May 22nd.
I am the Fire Brigades Union Waltham Forest Borough Secretary and I have worked at Leytonstone Fire Station for the last fourteen years.
I want to stand to help the campaign that is calling for an end to ALL cuts; we’ve had enough. We’ve particularly had enough in Waltham Forest.
In Waltham Forest we have lost 3 fire engines from the service due to cuts, one from my very own station. Nationally, we are expected to suffer a 30% cut in provision, this is unprecedented.
There have been 3,845 firefighter job cuts across the UK since 2011. This has had the effect of slowing down responses to 999 emergency calls and increasing the risk to communities.
Firefighters have seen three years of pension contribution increases and are facing a fourth. Government is proceeding with plans for an unworkable pension scheme for the future.
The floods last Christmas showed that it is not just fires that we deal with. There is more pressure on the service than ever, and fewer and fewer resources to perform the tasks that are needed. 70% of England’s fire and rescue services were involved in the floods, but there is still no clear duty for them to respond to floods (unlike in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Funding and resources are still not adequate for the threats faced by local communities.
Leytonstone Fire Station is due to be demolished and replaced with a new building next year using The Private Finance Initiative Model (PFI). This is where a private company builds the building and the Fire Service pays the building company back over many years. I hope that this does not turn out to be as disastrous for the fire service as it has been for the NHS. Huge cuts to Whipps Cross are being attributed to the calamitous PFI scheme down at Barts and The London. We wouldn’t want to be held to ransom by private building firms that could potentially mean stations have to close and firefighters lose their jobs; all to pay for a building that should have been built and financed in the public sector.
I am proud to be standing with other trade unionists and socialists campaigning against cuts, particularly those working in the local hospital Whipps Cross. I believe if elected I would oppose all cuts to local services, having been on the receiving end of them in the fire service. We need anti-cuts campaigners to be visible, vocal and oppositional wherever they can. The more we raise the need to tax the rich, renationalise the utilities and use the revenue on public services, the more chance we have of galvanising people against austerity.

Why I’m standing: Suzanne Muna, Leytonstone

Suzanne

I am the branch secretary of the Unite union’s Housing Workers branch.
Across the country, the sale of council housing to housing associations, the privatisation of housing services, and the constant transfer of care services between different providers has led to a race to the bottom for workers and users of these services.
The Unite Housing Workers branch, covering over 2,500 workers, has been mounting a concerted and successful fight-back against these attacks, gaining improvements for workers and resisting harmful changes to services.
I’m standing in Leytonstone and other leading members of the union branch are also standing as TUSC candidate elsewhere.

Why we’re standing: Whipps Cross hospital workers

Len, Russell, Aidan, Craig and Patrick

We are workers at Whipps Cross Hospital standing in Leytonstone and Forest wards in the council elections on 22nd May.
For the last few months we have been part of a big campaign of the unions in the hospital and the community to fight against £77.5m cuts in Barts Health Trust. We have been fighting pay cuts, the risk of 1000 job cuts and an even more overworked, underpaid workforce.
Thanks to everyone in the local community who supported us on our demonstrations!
Barts Health Trust, which includes Whipps Cross, is saddled with a massive PFI (private finance initiative) debt to rebuild the old Royal London, costing £115m a year!
Private companies are sucking the lifeblood out of the NHS. And the ConDems plan to sell off even more of our NHS – all to pay for a crisis caused by bankers and bosses.
We say cancel the PFI debt! Why should working people pay such a terrible price for the failures and the greed of the rich and big business?
The government bailed out the banks – why not bail out the NHS?!
All the main parties, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory, agree about cuts and privatisation to the NHS and all our public services. It was the Labour government that pressed ahead with the disastrous PFI projects that have caused such a crisis in the NHS.
This is why we have decided to stand as candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the local elections.

In Forest vote:
Craig Guiste
Patrick Brown
Russell Pennington

In Leytonstone vote:
Len Hockey
Aidan Taylor
Suzanne Muna (Suzanne’s ‘why I’m standing’ will appear in a future post)